SIR HUBERT WILKINS IN SEARCH FOR THE LOST SOVIET AVIATORS
Somewhere in the Arctic wastes, probably in the Arctic Ocean, lies the wreckage of an airplane in which on August 12, 1937, six Russians led by Sigismund Levanevsky set out to fly across the North Pole from Moscow to Fairbanks, Alaska.
The plane never reached
We flew a total distance
of 44000 miles, made the first winter flights by moonlight ever undertaken
ill-fated flight followed the brilliant success of two single-engined airplane flights from
On the basis of that message
Professor Otto Y. Schmidt. In Charge of the Northern Sea Route Administration
The search was begun at
once. One pilot of the MacKenzie Air Service
started a flight along the Alaskan coast on August 14, landing and questioning
every group of Eskimos he saw. Only one group, on
These Eskimos, busy butchering reindeer for the fall food supply, had heard what they thought to be the roar of an outboard motor. They could see ni sign of a boat, however, and as the noise lasted only a few minutes, they resumed their butchering. On the basis of this report, several American and Russian flyers searched the Alaskan mountains from the air, but without result.
On August 15, I was asked
by Counselor Constantine A. Oumansky, then Charge
d’Affairs of the Soviet Embassy in
In my opinion August is
the least favorable month to fly in the
The difficulties encountered
with the weather during our first two flights pointed to the need for some
weather forecast to prevent a great deal of useless flying… We wirelessed to the Soviet Embassy in
Mr. Edward M. Vernon, of
the United States Weather Bureau, was sent to
Thus we obtained extensive
international co-operation in forecasting weather over the arctic regions
(One more Australian – flight engineer Brown took part in the
search – VK). Throughout our search, the forecasts given by Beliakov,
At the end of the season
for flying boats, there came a period in which it would have been impossible
to fly, for the thin ice on the water would not be strong enough to support
a machine on skis. The Soviet Embassy in
… We were looking forward
to making two more single flights over the Arctic before the season for using
skis would close, about the end of March .
But upon our return from the last long flight, I received a telegram from
Ambassador Troyanovsky, of the
We regret sincerely that our efforts did not succeed in locating Levanevsky. While I think that there is very little chance for his safety, it seems to me not impossible that he or some of his crew may some day find their way back to civilization.
But even should they not return, their efforts – perhaps more than those of any others – will inspire their development which eventually will open the shortest routes for aerial transportation between the big cities of the Northern hemisphere.
By Sir Hubert Wilkins. Our Search for the Lost Aviators. An Arctic Area larger